A Thin Black Line

  • Douglas Watkin, Oscar Raby, Vernon Ah Kee
  • Australia
  • 2017
  • 12 min
  • Digital, Immersive
  • World Premiere
  • IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling, DocLab: Uncharted Rituals, DocLab Program

Patima is five years old when the bombing of Darwin takes place in 1942. It's the worst air attack on Australia during all of World War II. Previously surrounded by a loving family and her inseparable doll, Patima only has a vague notion of war. That is, until the bombings force her family to leave everything behind to find safety. People are now convinced that a full Japanese invasion is imminent, and her family flees to the south, along with half of the town. It quickly becomes apparent that the family cannot stay together. In this interactive virtual reality documentary, we experience in real time how filmmaker Douglas Watkin's mother lived through this frightening ordeal. You don’t know any more than the young Patima does, and you watch the changing situation from her point of view. Contemporary Aboriginal artist Vernon Ah Kee made the refined and gray-tinted artwork in this interactive experience.



  • 12 min
  • color
  • Spoken languages: English
Created by
Douglas Watkin, Oscar Raby, Vernon Ah Kee
Douglas Watkin, Oscar Raby, Vernon Ah Kee
Katy Morrison for VRTOV
Key collaborator
Vernon Ah Kee
Executive producer
John-Paul Marin for SBS Australia, Oscar Raby

IDFA history

World Premiere
IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling
DocLab: Uncharted Rituals
DocLab Program

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IDFA history

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